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Tomkins can be a new Terry, says Zola

PUBLISHED: 17:08 15 April 2009 | UPDATED: 14:17 05 October 2010

James Tomkins can become West Ham's answer to John Terry, according to Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola

By JONATHAN CLEGG

James Tomkins can become West Ham's answer to John Terry, according to Hammers boss Gianfranco Zola.

England Under-20 ace Tomkins produced another assured display in West Ham's defeat against Tottenham last weekend.

The homegrown defender, who signed a new long-term contract at Upton Park last week, nullified the threat of Spurs playmaker Luca Modric - despite being deployed as a makeshift right-back.

Now Zola has backed the 20-year-old to emulate Three Lions skipper Terry by establishing himself as a world-class performer for club and country.

"James is the complete, modern defender. He is 20 but he plays like a veteran," Zola said. "His attitude is very good and he has a lot of good competition for a place here and that has made him a better player.

"I am sure England are following his progress. He will be a top player if he keeps on progressing and I am sure he will hear from them."

Former Chelsea star Zola saw England defender Terry develop from a raw prospect in the club's reserves to England captain and Champions League stalwart for the Blues.

And the Italian sees similar potential in Tomkins, who committed his future to West Ham last week by signing a new long-term contract.

"John Terry was a different story - he was more energetic and had to learn how to control himself, whereas Tomkins is calmer and more in control. He is an intelligent player and he's more composed. He can be very good."

Tomkins is one of eight academy graduates to have appeared for the Hammers this season and Zola insists the current group can match the achievements of the club's last generation of top-class talents - including Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole.

"We have a group of good young players coming through and that is the key for us," Zola said. "It creates the kind of environment where everybody is at their best and the results are proving me right.

"We have players here who potentially can be as good as the others who have become champions now.

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